Arkansas Outdoors

Celestial timepiece says it’s Fall, although it might not feel like it

The fall season arrived Friday as the equinox split the hours fairly evenly between day and night. In addition, those watching the sun’s pilgrimage from the northern sky witnessed it march into the southern latitudes as it rose near due east Friday.
As the season progresses, it will continue southward a bit farther every day until it bottom’s out at the solstice, which occurs about Dec. 21. From there, it will reverse course and climb back toward the equinox at due east, which occurs around Mar. 21.
The “clock in the sky” is as accurate as the universe, and has been used for eons to keep track of all things celestial. The movements of the heavens play a major part in life on earth, especially in the lives of fish and animals. The sun, moon and tides all have major effects on the planet and its inhabitants.
While some deer hunters are convinced it is cold weather or other factors that cause the rutting activity, or breeding season, science proves that it is this celestial timepiece that spurs the urge to reproduce around the globe.
As the suns moves into the southern hemisphere, the days get shorter north of the equator, which causes the winter season. When it’s summer here, winter comes in the southern hemisphere.
As the days shorten, and less light passes through the eyes of deer and other animals, the reduction of light triggers their pituitary glands to produce hormones and prepare for the annual rites of reproduction.
Science has proven that light is the key. The amount of light per day can be varied in a controlled situation to keep deer out of rut, keep them in rut for indefinitely or cause to bucks to carry antlers all year—or even fail to grow them.
It is exciting to watch deer frolic on a frosty day, and even more amazing to realize they will rut in Florida and places where the temperatures are oppressively hot during the breeding season. Cold may enhance their activity, but it’s not the cause. It’s all due to the seasons, the celestial timepiece, and the Master Clockmaker who set it all into motion when He said, “Let There Be Light!”
Hunt antlerless deer first
It should painfully obvious that harvesting antlerless deer has become a foundational part of the Arkansas deer season schedule and tradition. Gone are the days when the primary focus was being on a stand on opening day with every hunter after a buck. During much of our history, does were not even legal to harvest.
The restoration of the deer herd eventually filled in the vast openings caused in the population caused by overhunting, the hard times of the Great Depression, unregulated, poaching and slob hunters who killed without limits, conscience or remorse. In a nutshell, the deer herd was finally replenished and the balanced population called for changes of in management strategies.
One pillar of modern management is that a balanced harvest helps provide a balanced population of wildlife, whether it’s game birds, big game, small game or fish. Arkansas hunters had to be retrained to harvest does and antlerless deer. For many, it was a stigma they had carried for generations that killing does was a cardinal sin. Actually, it was just a good management tool when herd restoration was underway. Now, it continues to be a handicap for some.
The bottom line is that it is easier, smart and efficient to take a few does for the “meat” section of your freezer during the possible hunts. It is easier to identify them early, while the fawns are still noticeably smaller. Dominate does are easier to identify demonstrating their bossy ways with other deer, making it easier for hunters to cull older, barren does.
Does may be easy to shoot early—but they’re not stupid. In fact, they catch on quickly and will get increasingly difficult to harvest when they are hunted. Many a hunter who decides to hunt for a buck first will wind up with unfilled tags if he waits to shoot does until later in the season.
Hunters who have shot does and then seen a buck following a minute or two behind realize that a gunshot doesn’t always send bucks fleeing. Sometimes, bucks may totally ignore anything other than the scent of a doe, even to their peril. A buck may even attack another buck that has been shot by a hunter, sensing weakness in his rival and trying to gain an advantage.
There are good reasons to get some meat first, and then hunt “horns” this year. Give it a try, and you’ll discover that munching on deer steak in October can be pretty sweet, especially when it’s the fresh, tender and legal meat from a doe or youngster harvested as part of the surplus bounty of a game population in excellent shape right in our state.
Weather-resistant license option available
Hunters and anglers wanting a more durable option to carry their license may now purchase an upgrade to receive an official weather-resistant license through all license vendors and license purchasing options.
The upgrade to the more durable card costs an additional $3, which covers the cost of producing, sorting and mailing the licenses. Hunters and anglers still will receive a paper license as well as the option of having their license emailed to them to store on a digital device or smartphone at the time of purchase. The durable, wallet-sized license will arrive by mail approximately three weeks after purchase.
“The hard card upgrade has been in the works for the license system from the beginning, but the implementation of the new license system was our main priority before we offered any enhancements, such as the hard card,” said AGFC Chief Information Officer Tony Davis. “Through the upgrade and the new system, we are trying to offer people as many options as possible to buy and carry their license.”
Davis said this year’s plastic license will be printed with the customer’s current license purchases and expiration dates, but another, more permanent option that will automatically be linked to the individual’s license system purchases is in the works for the future.
To purchase the upgrade, you may visit any license vendor, AGFC regional office, AGFC nature center, or you may buy your license over the phone at 501-223-6349. You may also purchase your license upgrade through the AGFC’s website at the following link. (AGFC Press Services)
Wildlife fine money helps education
The Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s Division of Rural Services has more than $600,000 in grant money to give to Arkansas schools and educators for programs in 2018, thanks to fines derived from wildlife violations. The application deadline for fiscal year 2018 grants is Oct. 26.
When a person is convicted of a wildlife fine, the money is not spent by the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Instead, it is handed over to the AEDC, which fulfills grant requests to mold the next generation of hunters and anglers.
“We’re often asked if salaries, vehicles or equipment are purchased with the fines, and in some states that may be the case,” said Matt Burns, assistant chief of education for the AGFC. “But in Arkansas, we are able to invest that money in conservation education programs carried out by schools and other organizations.”
The program stems from a 2015 Arkansas Legislative Act that modified the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Education program’s structure and placed the updated program under the administration of the Division of Rural Services.
A county-by-county list of available wildlife fine money is still being compiled. However, more than $600,000 is expected in 2018 for the program, which is applicable to any school or conservation district in Arkansas, regardless of size or population. Specific programs eligible for funding include, but are not limited to, the study of general fish and wildlife conservation issues, Project WILD Workshops, Arkansas National Archery in the Schools Program, Arkansas Youth Shooting Sports Program, Fishing in the Natural State, Arkansas Stream Team, School Yard Habitat Site Development, and specialized AGFC conservation education/educator training workshops focused on the programs above. Funds also may be used by educators to take students on field trips to AGFC nature centers, conservation education centers and wildlife management areas.
More information on program eligibility is available at www.ruralservices.Arkansas.gov. You can also contact Grants Manager Tonya Hass at 1-888-RURALAR. (AGFC Press Services)
Online WMA waterfowl permits available
The purchase option for the new Five-Day Nonresident WMA Waterfowl Permits was added to the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission’s licensing system last week, but the permit will not be needed until regular duck season begins.
“We have had a few calls asking if these permits would be needed during the upcoming early teal season,” said Caroline Cone, AGFC chief of staff. “But the permit is only necessary during regular duck season.”
Earlier this year, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission modified the regulations concerning nonresident waterfowl hunters on certain wildlife management areas popular for duck hunting in The Natural State. The change was in response to requests from resident hunters on these areas.
Nonresident WMA Waterfowl Permits are needed only during regular duck season and only on the following WMAs: Bayou Meto, Bell Slough/Camp Robinson, Beryl Anthony Lower Ouachita, Big Lake, Dr. Lester Sitzes III Bois d’Arc, Cut-Off Creek, Sheffield Nelson Dagmar, Dave Donaldson Black River, Earl Buss Bayou DeView, Ed Gordon Point Remove, Frog Bayou, Galla Creek, Harris Brake, Henry Gray Hurricane Lake, Holland Bottom, Lake Overcup, Petit Jean River, Rex Hancock Black Swamp, Seven Devils, Shirey Bay Rainey Brake, St. Francis Sunken Lands, Steve N. Wilson Raft Creek Bottoms, Sulphur River and Trusten Holder WMAs. It also is required to hunt on Craig D. Campbell Lake Conway Reservoir.
The annual Nonresident WMA Waterfowl Permit was discontinued, leaving only the five-day version of the permit. Nonresidents may purchase up to six of these permits per season, and each permit is only valid for a single WMA the hunter specifies at purchase. The cost for the five-day permit is $30.50.
Hunting and fishing licenses are available at all AGFC regional offices, nature centers, and many sporting goods stores throughout the state. Licenses may also be purchased online at www.agfc.com or by phone by calling 800-364-4263. (AGFC Press Services)

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